Time for 'super Mario' show in Italy v Spain Euro 2012 final
It may not be the final everyone predicted, but there's little doubting Spain v Italy is a clash that should provide a thrilling climax to what's been a terrific tournament.
They met just 21 days ago in Gdansk with a 1-1 scoreline not doing justice to Italy’s enterprise. However, the past four Euro finals have been tight, edgy affairs and it won’t be a shock if after 90 minutes it’s another draw.
But can the Azzurri surprise Spain in Kiev? Or will it be a third major title in a row for La Roja? Ever keen for a challenge, 7DAYS dusts of its crystal ball to take a peek into the future and predict the outcome.
Form so far - Solid but not spectacular. The defending champions have plodded along on their way to the final.
Why they can win - While we, and many others, have found the Spanish to be disappointing so far the fact is they have made the final and are due a very good performance. Several of their players, Xavi Hernandez being the shining example, may not have hit the heights of four years ago or at the World Cup in South Africa. But in Andres Iniesta Spain have one of the players of the tournament and a man capable of lifting his side. If he plays well then Italy will have their hands full. There is a huge incentive to get their hands on the Henri Delaunay Trophy. Should victory be their’s Spain will be the first side to win three major tournaments in a row since Uruguay took the Olympic title - the forerunner of the World Cup - in 1924 and 1928, then added the inaugural World Cup itself in 1930.
Why they can’t win - Portugal proved you can stop their possession game by pressing them high up the pitch and not giving them time on the ball. Spain looked as poor as they have done in ages on Wednesday and their mask of invincibility disappeared. Stubborn arrogance can also cost them tonight. If Vicente Del Bosque starts without a striker, as he’s done for most of the tournament, and Spain look ineffectual up front, he has to admit he’s wrong and send on a hitman - unlike against Portugal when the side was crying out for an attacking focal point.
Form so far - Surprised many by being both stylish and solid.
Why they can win - Momentum’s a valuable commodity in sport and the Azzurri currently have a lot of it. Improved with every game and shocked favourites Germany on Thursday. That clinical and classy performance in Warsaw easily matched their equally impressive showing against tonight’s opponents three weeks ago. In that match they proved, while not doing it themselves, Spain are beatable and that the best way to see-off the defending champions is to take the game to them. There was a temptation before the semi-final win to claim the Italians are a one-man team. But Thursday proved there’s more to them than just Andrea Pirlo. In Mario Balotelli (pictured) they have a match-winner and someone who’s shown a new side to both his game and character in the knockout stages. Their attacking flair (we didn’t think we’d be writing that in relation to Italy) has been great to watch and they are the form team.
Why they can’t win - It’s one thing to take the game to Spain, completely another for the tactic to work. Portugal played well and still ended up on the losing side and the same could well happen to Italy. They’ve had two intense matches in the space of five days and another could be one too many. The effects of the penalty kicks win over England could take their toll and have had less time to prepare for this clash than their opponents.
We called both semi-finals wrong so we’re going to take the deepest breath possible and go for Italy in 90 minutes...